If anyone thinks the NFL isn’t paying attention to everything that is being said about its handling of the work stoppage, think again.
After a Colts blogger who also is a long-time season-ticket holder expressed displeasure with Commissioner Roger Goodell’s recent conference call with Colts’ season-ticket holders (including a suggestion that the whole thing had been pre-recorded), Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com wrote an item about Nate Dunlevy’s displeasure.
“The vast majority of the questions had little to do with the lockout,” Dunlevy told Kuharsky. “The ones that did, Goodell gave a potboiler answer to that we’ve heard a thousand times. Many of us were on the line with real, hard questions and they didn’t field a single one I would classify as difficult.”
As a result, Dunlevy was able to ask his question (and a few others) directly to Goodell. Because Goodell called him, directly. Dunlevy has written about the conversation at 18to88.com.
Dunlevy initially focused on a topic about which we have spilled plenty of e-ink in recent weeks: The “lockout insurance” case. Specifically, he asked whether Goodell regrets that the situation created an environment of mistrust between the players and the league.
“Mr. Goodell responded by taking me back to the economic climate of 2008 and insisted that the contract was in the best interest of all the NFL’s business partners,” Dunlevy writes. “I asked him if he felt the NFL had behaved ethically in regards to the TV contracts, and he reiterated that he did believe the NFL had behaved in an appropriate manner and for the good of all their business partners including the players. He did not regret the contracts and felt they were conducted appropriately.”
Coincidentally, we discussed this specific issue earlier today on PFT Live with Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal. I’ve long believed that the players’ argument has a high degree of merit. The requirement that the networks pay money (even if it is a loan) during a lockout constitutes a contractual term that the league could have swapped for greater rights fees during the normal course of football business. Though it’s entirely possible that, as to some of the networks, no more money could have been obtained, the fact that DirecTV will pay the nonrefundable amount $400 million for a season of no football (including a lot more on top of that amount that would be repaid) means that DirecTV would have and could have shifted that money into the total payments made under the life of the deal.
The conversation eventually turned to the broader question of whether Goodell has any regrets regarding the league’s handling of the labor dispute.
“I asked Mr. Goodell if there was any aspect of the NFL’s conduct during the negotiations that he regretted, if there was anything he would have done differently, if there was any culpability to be shared by the league for the current state of affairs,” Dunlevy writes. “He responded that no, while obviously he has given considerable thought as to what could be done to get a a deal accomplished, he felt the NFL had behaved appropriately. He said that one always runs back over such negotiations searching for what could have been done differently, but that he did not believe there was anything that could have been changed. He then expressed frustration at the fact that the discussions were taking place in a courtroom rather than in mediated settlement talks.”
We don’t expect Goodell to say anything differently, even though (in all candor) we don’t believe it. We think the league regrets the manner in which the final days of mediation were handled prior to the decertification of the union, and we think the league would have provided the players with more face time in those days, along with more time to digest and respond to the offer that was finally made on the day that everything fell apart.
Hopefully, no one will ever have to ask Goodell if he regrets the fact that regular-season games were lost because of the lockout.
In the interim, let there be no doubt that the NFL is watching and listening. And if you complain loudly enough, who knows? You may get a call from the Commissioner, too.